Some paintings aren’t what they seem at first glance in the Martin Museum of Art’s exhibit “Emergence: Art and the Incarnation of Space.”
A canvas that appears a blank square when viewed from across the gallery reveals a faint border of color when seen from another angle. With that color in the viewer’s eye, a differently hued square then pops into view.
Seen up close, a large area of solid color in a Shingo Francis painting envelops a viewer’s field of vision, but as the viewer backs away, a thin solid line of contrasting color catches her peripheral vision and what seemed solid now contains form.
In other works, boundaries shift and fade, creating a perception of movement from a solid object.
“It’s not about optical effects. It’s about space,” explained guest curator Richard Davey, an arts writer, scholar and Anglican chaplain at Nottingham Trent University in Nottingham, England. “It’s that impossible point when something tangible becomes tangible inside our heads.”
The field of faith and art is familiar territory for Davey, who studied contemporary art for his doctoral degree in theology and finds it a window into invisible realities. “I look at how artists of faith explore the world through their faith. I’m interested in what does art tell us about the bigger reality,” he said.
In “Emergence,” work by German-born American artist Josef Albers, best known for his book “Interaction of Color,” serves as a starting point for paintings and sculptures by six contemporary artists that he inspired: Americans Edith Baumann, Benny Fountain, Shingo Francis, Jane Harris and Fritz Horstman, and English artist Richard Kenton Webb.
Davey said their works use juxtapositions of color, perspectiveless form and other techniques to create impressions of space and meaning beyond what’s in the physical image. “We rarely look at the space in the middle (between visual art and the viewer), but what we call empty space is filled with atoms and particles,” he said. “I’m interested in where boundaries start to merge, where two dimensions become three . . . It’s an incarnation, giving flesh and substance to the emptiness of space.”
The arts writer hopes viewers leave the exhibit not with a memory of objects, but an experience of seeing. “Part of this show is about looking,” he said. “People should go out and look with a different eye.
Davey will lead a panel discussion with many of the participating artists on Sept. 10. “Emergence: Art and the Incarnation of Space” will run through Oct. 6 at the museum, located in Baylor University’s Hooper-Schaefer Fine Arts Center.